Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Autumn is here and the landscape in East Tennessee is progressively becoming more beautiful. The rich hues of red, yellow, orange and green reflect the sunlight to create a portrait of the Fall season for everyone to enjoy. The air is crisp and carries the smell of baked apples and burning firewood. You can hear the crunching of fallen leaves under your feet when you walk through Brookhaven’s trails. The horses are trotting through the fields together and frolicking in the autumn breezes.

With this beautiful season also comes the reality of less daylight and the approaching winter months. During these winter months of decreased sunshine, many of us are used to feeling the “winter blahs.” More than just a “down” feeling, it is actually a form of depression, clinically referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Those who suffer from SAD can experience some of the following: distorted sleeping patterns (wanting to sleep more or less), wanting to “hibernate” and avoid contact with people, increase in eating and weight gain, feeling that their thoughts are foggy, and having to force themselves to maintain daily routines.

There are some steps you can take to help with these feelings during the winter months. You should always check with your doctor to determine if you are experiencing SAD or facing other problems that may be contributing to these feelings you are having. Once you have checked with your doctor, you can also keep yourself in a healthy space by doing some self-care activities.

Here are a few suggestions on helping with Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Keep yourself organized to maintain a regular routine. Create a calendar to keep track of appointments, and to schedule personal time for yourself. There are many holidays during these months, and that can become overwhelming. Do not overload yourself with obligations that will create more stress in your life. Keep a healthy balance of politely saying “No.” Treat yourself to snuggling up with a good book in front of a fireplace, going for a hike and taking time to breathe, or other activities that you enjoy and do not create unnecessary stress in your life.
  • Increase the amount of light that surrounds you.  You can speak with a doctor about certain lamps that may be helpful, or you can simply change your normal light bulbs with full spectrum ones.  Keep your window treatments open during the day and let the light shine in.  Take advantage of the cooler weather and bundle up for a walk.
  • Watch your diet.  Keep the carbohydrates from consuming your every meal.  Many winter menus consist of hearty soups and other heavy foods, but keep a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and protein.  Too many carbohydrates can make you feel sluggish and decrease your overall energy.
  • Exercise.  It can be as easy as 30 minutes of serious housekeeping.  If you will take 30 minutes a day to exercise in some way, it can help with the “blahs” and give you more energy.
  • Take time for your mental health.  Seek treatment; speak with a counselor or therapist about how you are feeling.  Go to group therapy.  Keep a journal.  Meditate; this would be done without the cell phone, computer, blackberry, television, etc.  Take a few minutes to turn off everything and focus inwardly on yourself and your well-being.

Try some of these helpful tips to help combat the “winter blahs.”


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